Taiwan has protested what it called a “reckless” and “provocative” flight by Chinese maritime aircraft across the so-called median line of the Taiwan Strait, the country said late Sunday.
The PLA Navy Air Force KQ-200 maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft ventured into Taiwanese airspace, a picture was taken by the RoC Air Force during the latest intercept within the Taiwan ADIZ. Bashi Channel is key ASW hunting ground for these planes.
“PLA Navy’s KQ-200 maritime patrol aircraft violated the long-held tacit agreement by crossing the median line of the #Taiwan Strait,” the official Twitter account of the Taiwanese Foreign Ministry said in a tweet. “It was an intentional, reckless & provocative action. We’ve informed regional partners & condemn #China for such behavior.” according to a Taiwanese Foreign Ministry’s Twitter Account.
In the extremely rare flight, Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said that the Chinese warplanes had crossed into its airspace and that it had scrambled fighters in response. Local media reports said the incident had triggered a 10-minute standoff between the Taiwanese and Chinese warplanes.
The 180-km-wide Taiwan Strait separates mainland China from self-governed and democratic Taiwan, which Beijing views as a renegade province that must be brought back into the fold — by force if necessary.
The flight was rare in that Beijing and Taipei have generally respected the median line in the Taiwan Strait, usually keeping their warplanes and ships from crossing it.
Bonnie Glaser, director of the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank in Washington, called the flight “unusual,” but noted that Chinese fighter jets had frequently crossed the median line in the mid- to late-1990s.
The U.S. has no formal ties with Taiwan but is bound by law to help it defend itself and is the island’s main source of arms. The Pentagon says Washington has sold Taipei more than $15 billion in weaponry since 2010. Taiwan also signed an agreement with US to buy 66 new generation F-16V fighter jets and MIM-104 Patriot missile defense system.
China is suspicious of Tsai and her pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party and any push for the island’s formal independence.
Chinese President Xi Jinping said in January that Beijing reserves the right to use force to bring Taiwan under its control, but would strive to achieve peaceful “reunification.”
The U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency noted in a report released in January that China continues to undertake ambitious steps to modernize and better equip its military — steps that are driven primarily by “Beijing’s long-standing interest to eventually compel Taiwan’s reunification with the mainland and deter any attempt by Taiwan to declare independence.”
“Beijing’s anticipation that foreign forces would intervene in a Taiwan scenario led the (People’s Liberation Army) to develop a range of systems to deter and deny foreign regional force projection,” the report added.
Sunday’s move also comes less than a week after the U.S. sent ships through the strait — the third time in as many months — amid Washington’s ramped-up naval activities in the waterway.
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